PRAGUE (AFP) — The Czech crown jewels, more than 700-year-old works of art, will go on show at Prague castle for the first time in five years from Saturday, the president's office said.
The centre piece of the collection, the 2,358-gramme gold crown, decorated with 96 precious stones including rubies and sapphires, was first worn by Holy Roman emperor and king of Bohemia, Charles IV of Luxembourg, for his Prague coronation in 1347.
Tradition has it that the crown jewels, also including the sceptre, imperial orb and other objects of an incalculable value, only go on show to mark exceptional occasions.
"That was the tradition established by Charles IV and renewed after the creation of the independent Czechoslovakia in 1918," the director of Prague Castle tourist office, Frantisek Kadlec, told AFP.
The castle is also the seat of the presidency.
Czechs and foreign visitors had the chance to view the jewels only nine times during the last century.
This year's opportunity marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic in 1993, the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia and the recent re-election of President Vaclav Klaus for a new five-year term.
During the last public exhibition in July 2003, 45,000 people filed past the treasures, many after a wait of several hours. They are on display for 11 days this time round.
The crown jewels were taken from the "crown room" of St. Vitus' Cathedral on Thursday evening at a ceremony traditionally attended by the highest representatives of Church and State.
"They have to attend in person or send their representatives to the cathedral so that the door with seven locks leading to the crown room can be opened," Kadlec explained.
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